The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD, Conn. — Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas and Deputy Chief of Training Daniel Nolan sparred over their respective roles and expectations at Thursday's final meeting of a task force appointed to review the fire department's operations.
Mayor Pedro Segarra formed the task force in December after incidents involving firefighters, both on duty and off, abusing alcohol or getting arrested.
The mayor also charged the panel with looking into safety issues and the department's response to an October house fire in which firefighter Kevin Bell was killed.
During an interview with three retired city fire chiefs — John B. Stewart, Nelson Carter and Edward Casares — and with Police Chief James Rovella, Nolan was asked about issues related to training.
One of the biggest problems, Nolan said, was that he and Huertas do not communicate.
"In order for training to be effective, we need communication," Nolan said. "That hasn't been happening."
Huertas countered that he receives a lot of emails and doesn't have the time or interest to respond to all of them, especially if they defy or question his orders.
"I give out orders," Huertas said. "I don't need them to be interpreted."
Later, when Nolan had an opportunity to respond, he said he "questioned unlawful orders" and added that the problems would continue until communciation improved.
Interim Assistant Chief Scott Brady, a retired deputy chief who is in his first week back on the job, was asked to provide his thoughts. He criticized Nolan for what he saw as insubordination brought on by lack of a command staff.
"There has been an assumption in the support divisions that they are autonomous," Brady said.
Huertas was also asked to tell the panel what his needs were as it prepares to make recommendations to the mayor about what steps the department should take to run more efficiently and resolve the spate of on- and off-duty, alcohol-related incidents that occurred in the past year.
Huertas said he needed an additional assistant chief's position. He has begun a national search to fill the position, which Brady filled on an interim basis starting this week.
He said he also needs more personnel in the training division, more professional development opportunities for officers and the addition of web-based training.
Casares told Huertas he would like to advocate for more staffing at the training division, but still had questions about whether the department was providing all the training opportunities it could. He said he wanted to see more data to show the need.
Carter also advocated more training opportunities and Stewart spoke of upgrading or possibly moving the training facility to prevent any more tragedies like Bell's death.
"I don't ever want to sit in this position again," Stewart said. "We don't want anyone to not come home. That's the bottom line."
At the end of the meeting Brady ordered Nolan to return to work instead of answering questions from the media. But Nolan questioned Brady's authority and spoke to the media anyway.
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